Bengaluru, April 24: The 1996 edition of the cricket World Cup was not only a benchmark in terms of the tournament's commercialisation but also its geographical expansion.
It was the biggest World Cup played in terms of participants and the duration till then with three associate members joining the nine regular ones and they were Kenya, Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It was debatable whether the presence of the associate members in a WC made it any worthwhile since the gap between the abilities was telling. But as democratisation doesn't take into consideration quality always, the associate members did not make the 1996 WC anything better qualitatively except of course Kenya's surprise win over a West Indies in decay.
That the lesser teams were not match for the top ones was capsuled in one frame from the tournament and it was from the match between South Africa and the UAE held in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It was the first game in the tournament for both teams and there was not much doubt about the outcome.
Led by Hansie Cronje, the Proteas were among the favourites to lift the trophy until they were booted out by Brian Lara's century. The Emirates, on the other hand, were led by Sultan Zarawani, a wealthy man who was often mocked as a batsman who had more cars in his garage than runs on the field.
Zarawani, who had made his international debut against India in Sharjah in 1994, ended up playing in only seven matches in which he scored 26 runs and took five wickets. He was also the only player in the UAE team in the 1996 WC who was a native while the rest were immigrants.
His international career ended with the WC that year and it had ended well with a 7-wicket victory over the Netherlands (a better result than in 2015 when the UAE returned to the WC but returned without a win).
The game started 24 hours later than the scheduled time since the wicket was flooded with rain and Zarawani, expecting something dramatic, won the toss and sent SA to bat first. Garry Kirsten picked the day as his own as he went on to script the highest score in a World Cup (bettering Viv Richards's 181 made in 1987) but fell short of the highest in ODIs (189 not out also by Viv).
Opening the innings, the southpaw narrowly missed a double hundred and remained unbeaten on 188 in 159 balls with the help of 13 fours and four sixes. SA lost just two wickets to register a score of 321 for two which was considered quite mammoth in those days. The UAE captain used seven bowlers but only two, including him, succeeded in picking a wicket.
The target would have required more than one innings for the UAE to achieve, especially against the bowling attack that South Africa had. And in no time, the Asians were reduced to 68 for 6, waiting to witness the gap they would lose by.
Walked in Zarawani at No. 8 and with a brave gesture: wearing just a panama hat as the headgear. Allan Donald, still being called White Lightning, had already picked three wickets and was looking dangerous.
Zarawani faced the first ball which Donald bounced, may be to scare him. But the batsman took his eyes off the ball in an act of evasion and it rammed into his side skull, displacing the hat. The man held his head with one hand as the South African fielders rushed to him but luckily there was no blood loss or damage.
The man said he was "fine" and continued batting with the same headgear.
Zarawani eventually perished off the delivery of Brian McMillan on zero after having played seven balls. The UAE were soon 72 for eight but after that, SA decided to cut down on the pace, perhaps pitying the Emirates and they managed to survive the full 50 overs and ended at 152 for eight to lose by 169 runs.